by Matt Weik
This article is not to put down bodybuilders or say in any way, shape, or form that what they are doing is wrong or reckless. The premise of this article is to have an open dialogue regarding the risks of bodybuilding and the long-term effects that could negatively impact their and your quality of life down the road.
If you’re in the industry, you’ve seen and maybe even experienced the highs and the lows of the sport. Many are willing to give their right leg in order to be the best and some actually have – look at Flex Wheeler. Bodybuilding is not for a faint of heart. It’s not for those who want to kick their feet up at night to Netflix and Chill. Bodybuilding is a 24-hour job. And while there are great rewards to those who are the best at what they do, there are also some great risks with bodybuilding.
Are the Risks of Bodybuilding Worth the Possible Long-Term Consequences?
Again, this isn’t a shot at any bodybuilder in particular or even the sport itself, but I look at the risks of bodybuilding like I do the risks of playing in the NFL. When you get to that level, you know there are going to be some long-term damaging consequences that will affect how you live later on in life – and sometimes freak accidents happen that change your life in an instance. There’s really no disputing that when you look at athletes in the NFL and what their lives look like following the game, taking all those shots to the head wasn’t a good thing. The same can be said about bodybuilding in a sense (only there are no blows to the head).
Sure, you have bodybuilders who are living a healthy lifestyle and have a good quality of life such as Jay Cutler, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Doran Yates (to name a few), but then you have the ones who paid the ultimate price to be the best at what they did.
For instance, how many surgeries has Ronnie Coleman gone through on his back? I lost count. Look at the pain he went through later in life to be the best in his era. And now he’s trying to get back to a somewhat normal life and be able to walk. I don’t think we need to even go into the number of bodybuilders we have lost at an early age who had the “win at all cost” mentality and was willing to do whatever it took to take their body to the next level.
So, this begs the question of, “Are the risks of bodybuilding worth it?” If you love the sport of bodybuilding and getting on stage means everything to you, who is anyone to tell you what you’re doing is a mistake? But if you don’t see yourself ever winning the Mr. Olympia title and walking home with a Sandow, what’s the point?
Your body takes an absolute beating on a daily basis when you’re a bodybuilder. It’s safe to say that you’re always sore and uncomfortable as a professional bodybuilder. You put your body through a daily war in the gym and then try to recover enough to allow yourself to put it through punishment again the next day, and the next, and the next, and the next. It’s a vicious cycle that never ends. And many LOVE being in the trenches, feeling the soreness from grueling workouts, as they know it’s going to force their body to make the necessary changes to potentially get on stage and place better in the future.
Yet, at the same time, think about how many bodybuilders ended their careers from accidents such as blowing out their knees or tearing their quads when squatting.
Is There a Point Where You Should Throw in the Towel?
When is enough, enough? Are you willing to beat up your body and take on all the risks of bodybuilding? The constant pounding of your joints, going through muscle tears, numerous injuries, not to mention the anabolics that are being used to beat your own genetic potential? Those are answers that no one will be able to answer for you.
Ronnie Coleman knew all the risks of bodybuilding and still to this day continues to grind it out at the gym – and that’s following major back surgeries. Why? Because he loves it. It’s his lifestyle. It’s in his blood. It’s all he knows. Can I fault him for jumping back in the gym after all those surgeries? Absolutely not. And in interviews where people asked Ronnie if he regretted anything during his career which lead up to the pain he’s been in, his answer was that he wished he got more reps out of the 800-pound squat he was doing as he sandbagged it and had more left in the tank. I mean, what do you even say to something like that? Do you laugh at how ridiculous that sounds and stand there wondering if this man has a few screws loose or do you respect that he was striving for greatness? That’s a special kind of mentality to have no regret whatsoever regarding the hell that Ronnie put himself through.
For years now, I’ve been wondering how long Dexter Jackson is going to hang on. I mean, the man is over 50 and still going strong and placing well. There’s a reason no one in the history of the sport has as many wins as him. He’s a damn vampire for all I can understand. But he’s very consistent. He’s also changed his workouts tremendously to shift from free-weight movements to more machine-work.
Personally, I think the shift Dexter made is what’s keeping him in the game. There’s less wear and tear on his body. Less risk of injury. And overall, he’s trying to minimize the associated risks of bodybuilding in general. It’s brilliant the way he’s modified his training from a longevity standpoint. I don’t see many people making it as long as Dex has without utilizing the same strategies that he has. If someone wants to take this bodybuilding thing long-term, they need to take a chapter out of Dexter’s book.
All in all, no one can make the decision for you to hang up your posing trunks or to buckle down and keep grinding. Do the risks of bodybuilding outweigh the rewards? If so, maybe it’s time to make a change. But if it’s in your blood like Ronnie, you may be happy but the long-term effects may not be fun. In the end, the decision is in your hands and only your hands.